Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, Volume 54, No. 334, August 1843 online

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We here close our attempts to convey to the English reader some notion,
however inadequate, of the genius and mind of Schiller. It is in these
Poems, rather, perhaps, than in his Dramas and Prose works, that the
upright earnestness of the mind, and the rich variety of the genius, are
best displayed. Here, certainly, can best be seen that peculiar union of
intellect and imagination which Mr Carlyle has so well distinguished as
Schiller's characteristic attribute, and in which it would be difficult
to name the modern poet by whom he is surpassed; and here the variety of
the genius is least restrained and limited by the earnestness of the
mind. For Schiller's variety is not that of Shakspeare, a creative and
universal spirit, passing with the breath of life into characters the
most diverse, and unidentified with the creations its invisible agency
invokes. But it is the variety of one in whom the consciousness of his
own existence is never laid aside; shown not so much in baring the minds
and hearts of others, as in developing the progress and the struggles of
his own, in the infinite gradations of joy and of sorrow, of exquisite
feeling and solemn thought. Hence, in the drama, arise his faults and
deficiencies; in his characters, he himself speaks. They are gigantic
images of his own moods at different epochs of his life - impassioned
with Moor - philosophizing with Posa - stately, tranquil, and sad, with
Wallenstein. But as, in his dramas, this intense perception of
self - this earnest, haunting consciousness - this feeling of genius as a
burden, and of life as a religion - interferes with true dramatic
versatility; so, on the contrary, these qualities give variety in his
poems to the expositions of a mind always varying, always
growing - always eager to think, and sensitive to feel. And his art loved
to luxuriate in all that copious fertility of materials which the
industry of a scholar submitted to the mastery of a poet; to turn to
divine song whatever had charmed the study or aroused the thought:
philosophy, history, the dogma, or the legend, all repose in the memory
to bloom in the verse. The surface of knowledge apparent in his poems is
immense; and this alone suffices to secure variety in thought. But the
aspiring and ardent nature of his intellect made him love to attempt
also constant experiments in the theme and in the style. The romantic
ballad, the classical tale, the lyric, the didactic, the
epigrammatic - the wealth of his music comprehended every note, the
boldness of his temper adventured every hazard. Yet still, (as in our
Byron, in our Goldsmith, and as, perhaps, in every mind tenacious of its
impressions,) some favourite ideas take possession of him so forcibly,
as to be frequently repeated as important truths. The sacred and
majestic office of the poet - the beauty of ideal life, (in which the
author of the "_Robbers_" and "_William Tell_" deemed, at last, that the
only liberty was to be found) - the worship of Virtue and the Beautiful,
for their own sake, and without hope of reward; - these, and many ideas
minor to, and proceeding from them, revisit us in a thousand tones of
eloquent and haunting music.

Reluctantly we tear ourselves from a task which has indeed been a labour
of love. Many poets may inspire as high an admiration as Schiller; few
so tender a personal affection. Even in his doubts and his errors, we
have that interest in his struggles which arises from the conviction of
his sound heart and his manly nature. Wrestling at one time with bitter
poverty, at one with unhappy passion - lonely in his habits, prematurely
broken in his health, his later wisdom dispelling his early dreams of
Utopian liberty - still, throughout all, his bravery never fails him, his
gentleness is never soured; his philanthropy changes its form, but it is
never chilled. Even when he wanders into error, it is from his search
for truth. That _humanity_ which the French writers of the last century
sought to preach, Schiller took from the scoffing wit of Voltaire, and
the unhealthy enthusiasm of Rousseau, to invest it with the thoughtful
sweetness and the robust vigour of his own great soul. And we believe
that no one can depart from the attentive study of that divine bequest
he has left the world, without a more serious respect for virtue, and a
more genial affection for mankind.



The Poems included in the Second Period of Schiller's literary career
are few, but remarkable for their beauty, and deeply interesting from
the struggling and anxious state of mind which some of them depict. It
was, both to his taste and to his thought, a period of visible
transition. He had survived the wild and irregular power which stamps,
with fierce and somewhat sensual characters, the productions of his
youth; but he had not attained that serene repose of strength - that
calm, bespeaking depth and fulness, which is found in the best writings
of his maturer years. In point of style, the Poems in this division have
more facility and sweetness than those that precede them, and perhaps
more evident vigour, more popular _verve_ and _gusto_, than some that
follow: in point of thought, they mark that era through which few men of
inquisitive and adventurous genius - of sanguine and impassioned
temperament - and of education chiefly self-formed, undisciplined, and
imperfect, have failed to pass - the era of doubt and gloom, of
self-conflict, and of self-torture. - In the "_Robbers_," and much of the
poetry written in the same period of Schiller's life, there is a bold
and wild imagination, which attacks rather than questions - innovates
rather than examines - seizes upon subjects of vast social import, that
float on the surface of opinion, and assails them with a blind and
half-savage rudeness, according as they offend the enthusiasm of
unreasoning youth. But now this eager and ardent mind had paused to
contemplate; its studies were turned to philosophy and history - a more
practical knowledge of life (though in this last, Schiller, like most
German authors, was ever more or less deficient in variety and range)
had begun to soften the stern and fiery spirit which had hitherto
sported with the dangerous elements of social revolution. And while this
change was working, before its feverish agitation subsided into that
Kantism which is the antipodes of scepticism, it was natural that, to
the energy which had asserted, denounced, and dogmatized, should succeed
the reaction of despondency and distrust. Vehement indignation at "the
solemn plausibilities" of the world pervades the "_Robbers_." In "_Don
Carlos_," (commenced in this period, though published much later,) the
passion is no longer vehement indignation, but mournful sorrow - not
indignation that hypocrisy reigns, but sorrow that honesty cannot
triumph - not indignation that formal vice usurps the high places of the
world, but sorrow that, in the world, warm and generous virtue glows,
and feels, and suffers - without reward. So, in the poems of this period,
are two that made a considerable sensation at their first
appearance - "_The Conflict_," published originally under the title of
"_The Freethinking of Passion_," and "_Resignation_." They present a
melancholy view of the moral struggles in the heart of a noble and
virtuous man. From the first of these poems, Schiller, happily and
wisely, at a later period of his life, struck the passages most
calculated to offend. What hand would dare restore them? The few stanzas
that remain still suggest the outline of dark and painful thoughts,
which is filled up in the more elaborate, and, in many respects, most
exquisite, poem of "_Resignation_." Virtue exacting all sacrifices, and
giving no reward - Belief which denies enjoyment, and has no bliss save
its own illusions; such is the sombre lesson of the melancholy poet - the
more impressive because _so far_ it is truth - deep and everlasting
truth - but only, to a Christian, a part of truth. Resignation, so sad if
not looking beyond the earth, becomes joy, when assured and confident of
heaven. Another poem in this intermediate collection was no less
subjected to severe animadversion, but with infinitely less justice. We
mean "_The Gods of Greece_." This lament for the beautiful old
mythology, is but the lament of a poet for the ancient founts of poetry;
and few, now-a-days, can be literal enough to suppose it seriously
intended to set up Paganism, to the disparagement of Christianity. But
the fact is, that Schiller's mind was so essentially religious, that we
feel more angry, when he whom we would gladly hail as our light and
guide, only darkens us or misleads, than we should, with a less grave
and reverent genius. Yet a period - a transition state - of doubt and
despondency is perhaps common to men in proportion to their natural
dispositions to faith and veneration. With them, it comes from keen
sympathy with undeserved sufferings - from wrath at wickedness
triumphant - from too intense a brooding over the great mysteries
involved in the government of the world. Scepticism of this nature can
but little injure the frivolous, and will be charitably regarded by the
wise. Schiller's mind soon outgrew the state which, to the mind of a
poet, above all men, is most ungenial, but the sadness which the
struggle bequeathed, seems to have wrought a complete revolution in all
his preconceived opinions. The wild creator of the "_Robbers_," drunk
with liberty, and audacious against all restraint, becomes the champion
of "Holy Order," - the denouncer of the French republic - the extoller of
an Ideal Life, which should entirely separate Genius the Restless from
Society the Settled. And as his impetuous and stormy vigour matured into
the lucent and tranquil art of "_Der Spaziergang_," "_Wallenstein_," and
"_Die Braut von Messina_," so his philosophy threw itself into calm
respect for all that custom sanctioned, and convention hallowed.

But even during the painful transition, of which, in his minor poems,
glimpses alone are visible, Scepticism, with Schiller, never insults the
devoted, or mocks the earnest mind. It may have sadness - but never
scorn. It is the question of a traveller who has lost his way in the
great wilderness, but who mourns with his fellow-seekers, and has no
bitter laughter for their wanderings from the goal. This division
begins, indeed, with a Hymn which atones for whatever pains us in the
two whose strain and spirit so gloomily contrast it, viz. the matchless
and immortal "_Hymn to Joy_" - a poem steeped in the very essence of
all-loving and all-aiding, Christianity - breathing the enthusiasm of
devout yet gladsome adoration, and ranking amongst the most glorious
bursts of worship which grateful Genius ever rendered to the benign

And it is peculiarly noticeable, that, whatever Schiller's state of mind
upon theological subjects at the time that this hymn was composed, and
though all doctrinal stamp and mark be carefully absent from it, it is
yet a poem that never could have been written but in a Christian age, in
a Christian land - but by a man whose whole soul and heart had been at
one time (nay, _was_ at the very moment of composition) inspired and
suffused with that firm belief in God's goodness and His justice - that
full assurance of rewards beyond the grave - that exulting and seraphic
cheerfulness which associates joy with the Creator - and that animated
affection for the Brotherhood of Mankind, which Christianity - and
Christianity alone, in its pure, orthodox, gospel form, needing no aid
from schoolman or philosopher - taught and teaches. Would, for objects
higher than the praise which the ingenuity of labour desires and strives
for - would that some faint traces of the splendour which invests the
original, could attend the passage of thoughts so noble and so tender,
from the verse of a poet to the rhyme of a translator!


Spark from the fire that Gods have fed -
JOY - thou Elysian Child divine,
Fire-drunk, our airy footsteps tread,
O Holy One! thy holy shrine.
The heart that Custom from the other
Divides, thy charms again unite,
And man in man but hails a brother,
Wherever rest thy wings of light.

_Chorus_ - Embrace ye millions - let this kiss,
Brothers, embrace the earth below!
You starry worlds that shine on this,
One common Father know!

He who this lot from fate can grasp -
Of one true friend the friend to be, -
He who one faithful maid can clasp,
Shall hold with us his jubilee;
Yes, each who but one single heart
In all the earth can claim his own! -
Let him who cannot, stand apart,
And weep beyond the pale, alone!

_Chorus_ - Homage to holy Sympathy,
Ye dwellers in our mighty ring;
Up to yon Star-pavilions - she
Leads to the Unknown King!

All being drinks the mother-dew
Of joy from Nature's holy bosom;
And Vice and Worth her steps pursue -
We trace them by the blossom.
Hers Love's sweet kiss - the grape's rich treasure,
That cheers Life on to Death's abode;
Joy in each link - the worm has pleasure,
The Cherub has the smile of God!

_Chorus_ - Why bow ye down - why down - ye millions?
O World, thy Maker's throne to see,
Look upward-search the Star-pavilions:
_There_ must His mansion be!

Joy is the mainspring in the whole
Of endless Nature's calm rotation;
Joy moves the dazzling wheels that roll
In the great Timepiece of Creation;
Joy breathes on buds, and flowers they are;
Joy beckons - suns come forth from heaven;
Joy rolls the spheres in realms afar,
Ne'er to thy glass, dim Wisdom, given!

_Chorus_ - Joyous as Suns careering gay
Along their royal paths on high,
March, Brothers, march our dauntless way,
As Chiefs to Victory!

Joy, from Truth's pure and lambent fires,
Smiles out upon the ardent seeker;
Joy leads to Virtue Man's desires,
And cheers as Suffering's step grows weaker.
High from the sunny slopes of Faith,
The gales her waving banners buoy;
And through the shattered vaults of Death,
Springs to the choral Angels-Joy!

_Chorus_ - Bear this life, millions, bravely bear -
Bear this life for the Better One!
See ye the Stars? - a life is there,
Where the reward is won.

Man never can the gods requite;
How fair alike to gods to be!
Where want and woe shall melt in light
That plays round Bliss eternally!
Revenge and Hatred both forgot;
No foe, the deadliest, unforgiven;
With smiles that tears can neighbour not;
No path can lead Regret to Heaven!

_Chorus_ - Let all the world be peace and love -
Cancel thy debt-book with thy brother;
For God shall judge of _us_ above,
As we shall judge each other!

Joy sparkles to us from the bowl -
Behold the juice whose golden colour
To meekness melts the savage soul,
And gives Despair a Hero's valour.
Up, brothers! - Lo, we crown the cup!
Lo, the wine flashes to the brim!
Let the bright Fount spring heavenward! - Up!
To THE GOOD SPIRIT this glass! - To HIM!

_Chorus_ - Praised by the ever-whirling ring
Of Stars, and tuneful Seraphim -
To THE GOOD SPIRIT - the Father-King
In Heaven! - This glass to Him!

Strong-hearted Hope to Sorrow's sloth;
Swift aid to guiltless Woe;
Eternity to plighted Troth;
Truth just to Friend and Foe;
Proud men before the throne to stand;
(These things are worth the dying!)
Good fortune to the Honest, and
Confusion to the Lying!

_Chorus_ - Draw closer in the holy ring,
Sworn by the wine-cup's golden river -
Sworn by the Stars, and by their King,
To keep our vow for ever!


She comes, she comes - the Burthen of the Deeps!
Beneath her wails the Universal Sea!
With clanking chains and a new God, she sweeps,
And with a thousand thunders, unto thee!
The ocean-castles and the floating hosts -
Ne'er on their like, look'd the wild waters! - Well
May man the monster name "Invincible."
O'er shudd'ring waves she gathers to thy coasts!
The horror that she spreads can claim
Just title to her haughty name.
The trembling Neptune quails
Under the silent and majestic forms;
The Doom of Worlds in those dark sails; -
Near and more near they sweep! and slumber all the Storms

Before thee the array,
Blest island, Empress of the Sea!
The sea-born squadrons threaten thee,
And thy great heart, BRITANNIA!
Woe to thy people, of their freedom proud -
She rests, a thunder heavy in its cloud!
Who, to thy hand the orb and sceptre gave,
That thou should'st be the sovereign of the nations?
To tyrant kings thou wert thyself the slave,
Till Freedom dug from Law its deep foundations;
The mighty CHART thy citizens made kings,
And kings to citizens sublimely bow'd!
And thou thyself, upon thy realm of water,
Hast thou not render'd millions up to slaughter,
When thy ships brought upon their sailing wings
The sceptre - and the shroud?
What should'st thou thank? - Blush, Earth, to hear and feel:
What should'st thou thank? - Thy genius and thy steel.
Behold the hidden and the giant fires!
Behold thy glory trembling to its fall!
Thy coming doom the round earth shall appall,
And all the hearts of freemen beat for thee,
And all free souls their fate in shine foresee -
_Theirs_ is _thy_ glory's fall!
One look below the Almighty gave,
Where stream'd the lion-flags of thy proud foe;
And near and wider yawn'd the horrent grave.
"And who," saith HE, "shall lay mine England low -
The stem that blooms with hero-deeds -
The rock when man from wrong a refuge needs -
The stronghold where the tyrant comes in vain?
Who shall bid England vanish from the main?
Ne'er be this only Eden freedom knew,
Man's stout defence from Power, to Fate consign'd."
God the Almighty blew,
And the Armada went to every wind!


No! I this conflict longer will not wage,
The conflict Duty claims - the giant task; -
Thy spells, O Virtue, never can assuage
The heart's wild fire - this offering do not ask!

True, I have sworn - a solemn vow have sworn,
That I myself will curb the self within;
Yet take thy wreath, no more it shall be worn -
Take back thy wreath, and leave me free to sin.

Rent be the contract I with thee once made; -
She loves me, loves me - forfeit be thy crown!
Blest he who, lull'd in rapture's dreamy shade,
Glides, as I glide, the deep fall gladly down.

She sees the worm that my youth's bloom decays,
She sees my springtime wasted as it flees;
And, marv'ling at the rigour that gainsays
The heart's sweet impulse, my reward decrees.

Distrust this angel purity, fair soul!
It is to guilt thy pity armeth me;
Could Being lavish its unmeasured whole,
It ne'er could give a gift to rival _Thee!_

Thee - the dear guilt I ever seek to shun,
O tyranny of fate, O wild desires!
My virtue's only crown can but be won
In that last breath - when virtue's self expires!


And I, too, was amidst Arcadia born,
And Nature seem'd to woo me;
And to my cradle such sweet joys were sworn:
And I, too, was amidst Arcadia born,
Yet the short spring gave only tears unto me!
Life but one blooming holiday can keep -
For me the bloom is fled;
The silent Genius of the Darker Sleep
Turns down my torch - and weep, my brethren, weep -
Weep, for the light is dead!
Upon thy bridge the shadows round me press,
O dread Eternity!
And I have known no moment that can bless; -
Take back this letter meant for Happiness -
The seal's unbrokenen - see!
Before thee, Judge, whose eyes the dark-spun veil
Conceals, my murmur came;
On this our orb a glad belief prevails,
That, thine the earthly sceptre and the scales,
REQUITER is thy name.

Terrors, they say, thou cost for Vice prepare,
And joys the good shall know;
Thou canst the crooked heart unmask and bare;
Thou canst the riddle of our fate declare,
And keep account with Woe.
With thee a home smiles for the exiled one -
There ends the thorny strife.
Unto my side a godlike vision won,
Called TRUTH, (few know her, and the many shun,)
And check'd the reins of life.
"I will repay thee in a holier land -
Give thou to me thy youth;
All I can grant thee lies in this command."
I heard, and, trusting in a holier land,
Gave my young joys to Truth.

"Give me thy Laura - give me her whom Love
To thy heart's core endears;
The usurer, Bliss, pays every grief - _above_!"
I tore the fond shape from the bleeding love,
And gave - albeit with tears!
"What bond can bind the Dead to life once more?
Poor fool," (the scoffer cries;)
"Gull'd by the despot's hireling lie, with lore
That gives for Truth a shadow; - life is o'er
When the delusion dies!"
"Tremblest thou," hiss'd the serpent-herd in scorn,
"Before the vain deceit?
Made holy but by custom, stale and worn,
The phantom Gods, of craft and folly born -
The sick world's solemn cheat?
What is this Future underneath the stone?
But for the veil that hides, revered alone;
The giant shadow of our Terror, thrown
On Conscience' troubled glass -
Life's lying likeness - in the dreary shroud
Of the cold sepulchre -
Embalm'd by Hope - Time's mummy - which the proud
Delirium, driv'ling through thy reason's cloud,
Calls '_Immortality!_'
Giv'st thou for hope (corruption proves its lie)
Sure joy that most delights us?
Six thousand years has Death reign'd tranquilly! -
Nor one corpse come to whisper those who die,
What _after_ death requites us!"
Along Time's shores I saw the Seasons fly;
Nature herself, interr'd
Among her blooms, lay dead; to those who die
There came no corpse to whisper Hope! Still I
Clung to the Godlike Word.
Judge! - All my joys to thee did I resign,
All that did most delight ne;
And now I kneel - man's scorn I scorn'd - thy shrine
Have I adored - Thee only held divine -
Requiter, now requite me!
"For all my sons an equal love I know,
And equal each condition,"
Answer'd an unseen Genius - "See below,
Two flowers, for all who rightly seek them, blow -
The HOPE and the FRUITION.
He who has pluck'd the one, resign'd must see
The sister's forfeit bloom:
Let Unbelief enjoy - Belief must be
All to the chooser; - the world's history
Is the world's judgment doom.
Thou hast had HOPE - in thy belief thy prize -
Thy bliss was centred in it:
Eternity itself - (Go ask the Wise!)
Never to him who forfeits, resupplies
The sum struck from the Minute!"



Ye in the age gone by,
Who ruled the world - a world how lovely then! -
And guided still the steps of happy men
In the light leading strings of careless joy!
Ah, flourish'd them your service of delight!
How different, oh, how different, in the day
When thy sweet fanes with many a wreath were bright,
O Venus Amathusia!


Then, through a veil of dreams
Woven by Song, Truth's youthful beauty glow'd,

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Online LibraryVariousBlackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, Volume 54, No. 334, August 1843 → online text (page 1 of 23)